Therapeutic recreation staff member Brenda Holloway, second from right, poses with Omega Psi Phi fraternity members Kyle Hill, Melvin Stalligs and Tellas Minor. The fraternity provided free concessions to participants and their families during the Miracle League season.
Alexandria The t-shirts being handed out by volunteers said it all: “A miracle happened in Alexandria, Virginia on November 17, 2102” as the new Kelley Cares Miracle Field was dedicated and officially opened for play.
“This is literally a field of dreams,” said Mayor Bill Euille. “This dedication is a beginning and would not have been achieved without the participation of an entire community that is inclusive of everyone, no matter what your challenges are.”
The t-shirts being handed out by volunteers said it all: “A miracle happened in Alexandria, Virginia on November 17, 2102” as the new Kelley Cares Miracle Field was dedicated and officially opened for play.
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The Miracle Field in Alexandria will be called the Kelley Cares Miracle Field in honor of the Kelley Cares Foundation and its ongoing support of the therapeutic recreation programs in the city. The organization is named for Kelley Swanson, a volunteer with the city's therapeutic recreation department who died within weeks of graduating from T.C. Williams High School in 2005.
“Kelley Swanson chose to dedicate her life to people with special needs,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8). “The miracle of making this field a reality is the legacy of Kelley and her family and friends.”
A Miracle Field is a rubberized surface baseball diamond that provides individuals with special needs a safe environment to play outdoor sports. Set up like a baseball diamond, the field is a shorter than regulation fields with 110 feet down each foul line. The entire surface is a rubberized compound including the outfield and facilitates the use of wheelchairs and walkers.
“The Kelley Cares Foundation epitomizes the goodness in people,” said Miracle League of Alexandria board chair Bill Rivers. “Without their support and the contribution of every single dollar from our corporate sponsors to individuals, we would not have been able to build this field.”
While the field's primary use will be for play by the city's Miracle League baseball teams, Rivers said that its purpose goes beyond sports.
“Our field has been created as more of a destination for our special needs individuals than just a playing field,” Rivers said. “There is a welcoming plaza in front of the field with shaded picnic tables, a Wall of Fame recognizing many of our donors and a surrounding garden of plants with sensory and tactile features that appeal to our players. There are benches surrounding the field for people to relax on, as well as two sets of bleachers for fans.”
The field was the result of a joint public/private partnership between the city and the Miracle League of Alexandria. The city contributed $285,000; the MLA raised $150,000 in cash; and the construction firms of Lane Construction, Virginia Paving, R. E. Lee Electrical, Musco Lighting, Hercules Fences and Simpson Development donated approximately $150,000 in services while building the field. Cash donations ranged from $2 to Jack Taylor’s $20,000 and the Kelley Cares Foundation’s $40,000 from.
“Kelley Swanson chose to dedicate her life to people with special needs. The miracle of making this field a reality is the legacy of Kelley and her family and friends.” — U.S. Rep. Jim Moran
“This has been an incredible opportunity to work with a true dream team,” said foundation director Lindsey Swanson and sister to Kelley. “This field will enhance the lives of therapeutic rec participants for years to come.”
There are currently about 35 players in the Miracle League with ages ranging from 8 to the mid-'50s. With the completion of the field, Rivers expects the program to expand to upwards of 200 players. Therapeutic Recreation programs will have priority use of the field, but other groups, including seniors for kickball or softball or youth for T-ball games, will also have access to the field.
“The field is an example of what can be done by willing partners who want to help those who need a little more than others,” Rivers said.
The Miracle League is a national organization headquartered in Georgia that encourages people with special needs to participate in outdoor sports, particularly baseball. With about 200 chapters throughout the country, players have the opportunity to field, bat and run the bases with every hit being a home run. No score is kept and an effort is made to have all fielders touch the ball during play. Volunteers (or Angels in the Outfield) help the players both field and run.
“Kelley spent her life making everyone feel wanted and needed,” Moran said. “She is the inspiration for this field and the miracle that this community has brought about. Kelley Swanson lives on in this field.”
For more information, visit www.miracleleagueofalexandria.com. For information about the Kelley Cares Foundation, visit www.kelleycares.org.